CHECKLISTS

Timothy and Titus – Inconspicuous Leadership

1 Timothy 5 checklistI am a list maker…even in retirement from my secular work. For me, what doesn’t get listed, doesn’t get done. It is also very rewarding for me to check that item off the list when it is accomplished. The list has a progression of priorities. One task cannot happen until another task is completed. And so life goes with my lists guiding my behavior and productivity.

As I journal each morning in my conversational prayer with God, the Father, His Spirit guides me to make another list that helps me to mature and grow in Him. I am convicted of some of those “fruits of the Spirit” that I have not tended to or cultivated, have ignored or left undone. His Holy Spirit redirects my thoughts and helps me form a list of tasks that will help me improve my behavior. “Keep a close check on yourself”, writes Paul to Timothy. For me, that means to make a spiritual checklist that keeps me in close contact with the will and purpose of our Father, God and helps me to grow closer to Him.

We can do nothing of significance without God. I am convinced that He guides us to all things that are good for our growth and aid our learning about Him and how He works. Paul also gives Timothy sound advice about how to treat those whom God has called to lead with character traits with another list of how to lead. This list still applies to us today. The theme of this episode seems to be; Know God, Know Yourself, Know The Message, Know Your Audience. Our deeds, good and bad, will be evident. Be driven by God’s love in us.

1 Timothy 5, The Message

17-18 Give a bonus to leaders who do a good job, especially the ones who work hard at preaching and teaching. Scripture tells us, “Don’t muzzle a working ox” and “A worker deserves his pay.”

19 Don’t listen to a complaint against a leader that isn’t backed up by two or three responsible witnesses.

20 If anyone falls into sin, call that person on the carpet. Those who are inclined that way will know right off they can’t get by with it.

21-23 God and Jesus and angels all back me up in these instructions. Carry them out without favoritism, without taking sides. Don’t appoint people to church leadership positions too hastily. If a person is involved in some serious sins, you don’t want to become an unwitting accomplice. In any event, keep a close check on yourself. And don’t worry too much about what the critics will say. Go ahead and drink a little wine, for instance; it’s good for your digestion, good medicine for what ails you.

24-25 The sins of some people are blatant and march them right into court. The sins of others don’t show up until much later. The same with good deeds. Some you see right off, but none are hidden forever.

1 Timothy 5 check yourselfLEADERSHIP PRINCIPLE #6: Keep a Close Check on Yourself

Leadership Characteristics –

–Fully rely on God. Trust Him with all you are and all you have. We are His. All we have is His.
–Ask God “if there is anything offensive to you, cleanse me.” as the Psalmist prayed.
–Repent with a heart and mind not wanting to return to the old life.
–Look full into the face of Jesus, our Master, Lord and Savior with laser focus so we know what direction to take next.
–“Keep a close check on yourself.” Avoid, “he did it, I can, too” or “my sin is not as bad as his sin” or “everybody’s doing it” mentality.
–Ask God for wisdom, insight and understanding.
–Allow God’s transformation to continue in our lives.
–Ask God to make your lists of to BE and to DO. HE will prioritize your lists in ways you cannot imagine! Where He guides, He provides help all along the journey.
–Do all in a Spirit of love for God and others.
–Care enough to confront others with God’s love and concern for their spiritual well-being and growth.

Warning   The things on our spiritual check list can never be crossed off because we’ll be working on them our whole lives. By listing we are reminding ourselves of what we need to work on to “keep a close check” on our lives. It is only by The Atonement of Jesus Christ can we accomplish anything of eternal significance.

Dear Heavenly Father,
You have convinced me that we must do spiritual “business” with You each day to improve our being in You. Thank you for helping us on this journey. Thank you for Your Holy Spirit that points out things in our behavior that could cause us to crash…before crashing. Thank you for always being with us, guiding and directing, loving and protecting and challenging us to grow and bear Fruit. Continue to transform me. Transform your church. Transform the world through your church.
In Jesus Name, Amen

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WHO IS THIS?

Growing up with parents and grandparents with childlike faith in God, believing in Jesus as Savior and living believing that He was Lord of their lives led me to believe in Him, too.  My faith in God was tied to their faith in God.  My grandparents were wise, full of hope, trusted Jesus in their difficult times that would rob them for a moment of their smiles.  Even as a child I remember observing their actions and reactions to problems closely especially when their faces showed sadness. 

I watched as they passionately prayed each evening, heard the praise and request words from their hearts with expectations that God would indeed intervene in His time.  They would get up from their kneeling position and the smiles returned.  These smiles were a result of trust and faith in the One they could not see but felt and knew well.  Yes, they KNEW Him and prayed to Him expecting an answer even if the answer was yes, no, or wait.  If you asked my parents and grandparents, who do they say the Son of Man is, they could readily answer with hearts, minds and souls driven by Jesus’ saving grace. 

PAUSE FOR PRAYER

Do we really know Him? 

Do we KNOW Him?

Or are we merely impressed with who He was in scripture? 

Who do we say Jesus was, is and is to come? 

Do we really believe that what we say we believe really real? 

Is Jesus a mere part of our “God-part” of life?

Do we pull out our God-card when we need Him?

Does God, Jesus and Holy Spirit, (the Holy Trinity, the Three-In-One), have access to ALL of our lives no matter where we are, who we’re with, who we work for, what we are doing and as well as who we are?

Jesus asks us, “Who do YOU say I am?”, still.  How will we answer?  It’s a matter of life or death so we need to pause and thoughtfully, prayerfully and honestly answer at the start of each day given to us.

For me? I confess, I walked with God while grasping the apron strings of faith of my parents and grandparents.  I had to let go of their faith building accomplishments for their own lives when they left earth to be joined with Jesus.  This letting go was essential to growing my own faith, hope and trust in Jesus, who became LORD of my life.  I thought I knew Jesus through my grandparents and parents.  But when I had to fully rely on Him myself after they left earth, is when I really began to KNOW Him.  Jesus came as God in flesh to earth to teach, to save, to heal, to provide a way to truth and life.  He did what God told Him to do at exactly the right time.  This is what I know; Jesus loves me.  Jesus saved me.  Jesus saves all who believe, truly believe, and gives all to the One and Only.

The Lord is my shepherd.  He is all l I need.  That’s who Jesus is!

Matthew-God’s Law Fulfilled

Matthew 16:13-28, NLT

Peter’s Declaration about Jesus

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

14 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”

15 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. 18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”

20 Then he sternly warned the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

As soon as Jesus establish who He was, is and is to come with Peter who declared correctly His Messianic mission to the world, minds were opened and trusted to hear what will come to pass…

Jesus Predicts His Death

21 From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead.

22 But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”

23 Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. 25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 26 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds. 28 And I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”

THINK ABOUT IT…

What if I only hung on to my parents and grandparent’s faith?  What if I believed Jesus was only their “thing”?  I shudder at the thought.  I did come to a crossroads in my faith as a young adult in my twenties.  I remember asking myself on day, as I cared for our first daughter, WHY?  Why do I do what I do?  What do I really believe about Jesus, His church and the connection of myself with it all?  After a few days, Jesus revealed Himself to me in my thoughts.  “Take all you have learned from your beloved family and build your own faith.”  I did.  I then began the journey to grow from childish faith to child-like faith.  I never questioned Him again.  Although tested many times in difficult situations, being honest with God with questions, He delivered me and my growing family, saved us from all kinds of troubles that challenged us and brought me to this day with complete faith and trust in Him alone.

NEED TO KNOW

The more we know Him the more He allows us to “see” and understand.  All the mysteries of Christ cannot be contained by human minds but God will allow us to see what we need to know for the time He knows we need it.  Peter would not be able to handle what lies ahead for Jesus, but He will follow Him, learn from Him and build His faith in Jesus no matter what.  Peter will learn forgiveness through repentance with a new covenant agreement with God and begin to preach WHO Jesus is in later days.  “Preach Jesus” will be the theme of all who will follow Him because they KNOW Him.

Who is this?  It depends on how much you know.

Abba, Father in Heaven,

You are my shepherd.  You are all I need.   You let me rest in green pastures.  You lead my beside peaceful streams.  You renew my strength.  You guide me along right paths, bringing honor to your Name.  Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid for you are close beside me.  Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.  You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.  You ARE the feast!  You honor me by anointing my head with healing oil.  My cup overflows with blessings.  Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.  Yes!In Jesus Name and by His power working in me, Am

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IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT DISTRACT US

Okay, everyone into the boat, Jesus is ready to sail!  The oars are in the water, the sails are up, it’s a great day to get across this lake.  A few minutes into the voyage, stomachs begin to growl.  Some of the devoted, young men now remember they didn’t bring bread for the trip.  Instead of childlike faith, the respond childishly, “Hey Dude, did you happen to bring the baskets of leftovers?” “Did you bring bread?”  “It wasn’t my turn to bring bread!”  “Well, who’s turn was it?”  “I was worried about getting the boat off the shore, so I didn’t think about bread, but I am now.”  “Let’s blame Judas; he’s always in a bad mood anyway.”  This is all in my imagination of the scene, but isn’t this so like us? 

Many times, we miss the “boat” of what God is telling us because we are so focused and involved with just getting by in life for the moment.  We are so busy worrying about the little things of life that we miss opportunities to go deeper into our relationship with Almighty God who is trying to watch out for us, teach us, give warnings that will keep us from falling for evil.  Our God, how I love him!  How much I love Jesus who patiently explains to his dedicated followers in the boat that HE is all the Bread they need.  HE is the Bread of Life!  Speaking of bread, Jesus takes a beat to explain about the yeast of evil.  Beware of the yeast of proud leaders who permeate the bread of the wicked.  “Beware of the yeast of the leaders who do not follow Me” is what he is saying to them. Their religion will seep into your lives like yeast into baking bread.  Don’t become a loaf of evil!

Imagine the awkward pause in the boat.  Sailing in silence after the argument was shut down by Jesus, their thinking turns from who brought the bread to the Bread of Life who was sitting right there with them.  His eyes fixed on their eyes.  His love melted away their petty arguing and they finally “got it”, got the message He was explaining to them for their good and His glory.  Jesus, Son of God, is the Bread we need to fix all our attention as we feast of His teaching, hear His Holy Spirit, while being thankful for His love, mercy and grace.

We “get it”, right?

Matthew—God’s Law Fulfilled

Matthew 16:5-12, NLT

Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees

Later, after they crossed to the other side of the lake, the disciples discovered they had forgotten to bring any bread. “Watch out!” Jesus warned them. “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread. Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “You have so little faith! Why are you arguing with each other about having no bread? Don’t you understand even yet? Don’t you remember the 5,000 I fed with five loaves, and the baskets of leftovers you picked up? 10 Or the 4,000 I fed with seven loaves, and the large baskets of leftovers you picked up? 11 Why can’t you understand that I’m not talking about bread? So again I say, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’”

12 Then at last they understood that he wasn’t speaking about the yeast in bread, but about the deceptive teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

THINK ABOUT IT…

We fuss and stew over things of this world that are so small as God serves a feast of abundant life before us all because of His love.  Jesus, God’s Son, is the feast, the Bread of Life for all who believe.  Think God, think more than we can imagine!  He is the Way, Truth and Life!

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16, NIV

Jesus told his disciples for emphasis, “I fed…” more than once to help them understand that HE will feed them all they need for Life.  Always.  Forevermore. 

“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Romans 10:9, NLT

Be assured, we will be saved and fed well.

Abba, Father,

Thank you for saving my soul.  Thank your for renewing my spirit, changing my mind and filling my heart with your love.  Thank you for constantly feeding me with Your Word that gives life and sustenance.  Thank you for leading me out of trouble.  Thank you for guiding around the mountains of circumstances that could bring me down.  Sometimes you even move the mountains!  You are God and we are not.  There is no one like you!  You can do anything and everything!

You are my Shepherd.  You are all I need.  You let me rest in green meadows.  You lead me beside peaceful streams.  You renew my strength.  You guide me along right paths, bringing honor to Your Name. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid for you are close beside me.  Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.  You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.  You honor me by anointing my head with oil.  My cup overflows with blessings.  Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.  Yes, and amen!

In Jesus Name, Amen!  I believe.

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DEMANDING PEOPLE

Am I one of them?

When leaders become proud, haughty, and self-righteous watch out!  People with these traits become more and more demanding of all those around them including God, Himself.  Truth Bomb:  These traits are not of God and not in His character.  Not only are these leaders hard to live with and follow, they are dangerous to any work environment.  These challenging traits are in the top ten traits of the evil one, who tried in heaven to be like God and was thrown out!  This fallen angel and his army of demons, who still masquerade as enticingly good, prowls like a lion, is like a wolf among the sheep, a liar, is a misrepresentation of Truth.  How do I know?  The Bible tells me so.  Here are a few examples…

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8, NIV

“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  John 8:44, NIV

“Satan does it all the time, dressing up as a beautiful angel of light. So it shouldn’t surprise us when his servants masquerade as servants of God. But they’re not getting by with anything. They’ll pay for it in the end.”  2 Corinthians 11:14, Msg

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”  Matthew 7:15, NIV

KNOW OUR ENEMY

The evil one has very limited power but uses what he has to draw self-seeking people away from the following the sheep herd looking for Jesus with the only goal of death. Jesus is the opposite. 

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” –Jesus, John 10:10, NIV

Truth:  The evil one hates Jesus!  So, evil uses these character traits of self-satisfaction seeking to manipulate the thoughts of our minds.  He replaces the cry of our hearts for God with distractions and all that is “shiny” in our eyes that will soon destroy us. Evil wants to fill the void in souls who long for God but don’t know God or have put God aside in pursuit of self.  We are easy prey when we walk away from God. 

Evil makes demands, pushing their way to the top, walking over everyone in their way to be where they think they should be.  Evil is a Liar, the chief among Liars, the prince of darkness.

KNOW JESUS

Jesus loves.  Jesus heals.  Jesus saves.  Jesus is God who wants the best for all His created.  Jesus, Son of God, is Truth, Light, and Life forevermore.  To all who believe receives power in the Trinity of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  “Greater is HE that is in me than he (evil) who is in the world.”  1 John 4:4

We get to choose.  Light or Dark?  Pause to pray.

Do not test God!  Yikes!

I’m reminded of this commandment and of Jesus’ response to Satan when He was tempted:

“Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. 14 Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; 15 for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. 16 Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah.” Deuteronomy 6:13-16, NIV  Emphasis mine.

“Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you,
 and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”  Matthew 4:4-7, NIV

Jesus wins the battle with evil in his temptation with God’s Word.

Does that work for us?  A million times YES!

A marker for evil:  “Only evil demands a sign”–Jesus

Matthew—God’s Law Fulfilled

Matthew 16:1-4, NLT

Leaders Demand a Miraculous Sign

One day the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus, demanding that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.

He replied, “You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow; red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’ You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the signs of the times! Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign, but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah.” Then Jesus left them and went away.

THINK ABOUT IT…

The saddest and most profound action of Jesus upon the demands of evil working through these leaders is this:  “Jesus left them and went away”!  Oh, friends, I cannot imagine living my life without Jesus!  I do not want to fall for evil who wants me to make demands of God, causing the Almighty to go away.  That would be like David who became a self-seeking leader which led to his own self-destructive behavior.  But David came back to God to repent with this request;

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Psalm 51:10-12, NIV

We can do the same.  Leave all that is evil and come back to God.  God provided a way back to Him through Jesus Christ, His Son.  Believe on His Name and be saved.  He promises to NEVER leave us.  He will never walk away from those who believe.  Since He is Truth, we can put all our hope and trust in Him.

Abba, Father,

Forgive us when we make demands of what we think is best for us or test you to see if you are the One and Only.  I simply believe.  Restore and renew our thinking each day we live on this earth in preparation for our forever home with You.  Be in all the details.  Give us wisdom to run when evil tells us to make demands of you and misrepresents Truth.  Yes, lead us not into temptations but DELIVER us from evil.  For you have ALL power, to you be ALL glory for all that is right and good, pleasing and leads to life! Thank you for your promise to never leave us. Thank you for your victory over evil.  Thank you for the fighting and winning the battle over evil for our minds. 

In Jesus Name, Amen

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AGAIN, AND AGAIN, AMEN!

Truth Bomb:  The more we love God back, learn His character through our talks with Him daily, the more we realize the depth of His generosity because of His great love for us!  God expresses His love for us again and again and again.  The more we grow in understanding of His great love, we begin to expectantly look for Him all around us as well as in us!  Yes, God shows His great love to us every day!  His glory can be seen by all who know, believe, follow and sit down at His Table to feast on the Bread of Life and Living Water.

For a moment, closely look at the word, “again”.  It just dawned on me that if you separate the two words in our English language we see “a—gain”.  One of the definitions of again, according to Webster, is “in addition to what has already been mentioned”.  I love that!  If fact, God gives and gives in addition to all we can think or imagine!  We gain again and again! 

Take a look at this verse!  Paul who totally “get it” writes, “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations! Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!”  (Ephesians 3:20, The MSG)

Stay with me, here.  We always have A GAIN when God is involved.  He gives and provides generously again and again.  When we pray for help, encouragement, renewed strength, and a restored spirit, God gives generously again and again.  When we pray to grow in His character traits, He grows us to bloom with the fruits of HIS Holy Spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control—again and again! 

Jesus proves AGAIN that HE is more than enough and is all we need!  Jesus feeds a crowd AGAIN with physical food after pouring himself out to give all that He is to those in need of Him.  Wow.  Don’t you love this “again and again” trait of our Savior and Lord?

Matthew—God’s Law Fulfilled

Matthew 15:32-39, NLT

Jesus Feeds Four Thousand

32 Then Jesus called his disciples and told them, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, or they will faint along the way.”

33 The disciples replied, “Where would we get enough food here in the wilderness for such a huge crowd?”

34 Jesus asked, “How much bread do you have?”

They replied, “Seven loaves, and a few small fish.”

35 So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground. 36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to the disciples, who distributed the food to the crowd.

37 They all ate as much as they wanted. Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food. 38 There were 4,000 men who were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children. 39 Then Jesus sent the people home, and he got into a boat and crossed over to the region of Magadan.

THINK ABOUT IT…

“They ate as much as they wanted.”  All in a day’s work for the King of kings and Lord of lords!

“The disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftovers”…Leftovers AGAIN to provide food for the journey with Jesus.

Jesus—He will do what God wants Him to do again and again.

Abba, Father in Heaven,

The more I learn from you the more I love you, depend on you and fully trust you with my life.  You are life!  You do it again and again until we understand your love, mercy and grace.  Thank you, Lord.  Continue to grow me.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

And I’m singing…Do It Again, Elevation Worship

Walking around these walls
I thought by now they’d fall
But You have never failed me yet

Waiting for change to come
Knowing the battle’s won
For You have never failed me yet

Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I’m still in Your hands
This is my confidence
You’ve never failed me yet

I know the night won’t last
Your word will come to pass
My heart will sing Your praise again

Jesus You’re still enough
Keep me within Your love, oh
My heart will sing Your praise again
(Oh, yes, it will)

Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I’m still in Your hands
This is my confidence
You’ve never failed

Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I’m still in Your hands
This is my confidence
You’ve never failed me yet
Never failed me yet
Oh, oh-oh

I’ve seen You move, You move the mountains
And I believe I’ll see You do it again
You made a way, where there was no way
And I believe I’ll see You do it again

I’ve seen You move, You move the mountains
And I believe I’ll see You do it again
You made a way, where there was no way
And I believe I’ll see You do it again

I’ve seen You move, You move the mountains
And I believe I’ll see You do it again
You made a way, where there was no way
And I believe I’ll see You do it again
I’ll see You do it again

Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I’m still in Your hands
This is my confidence
You’ve never failed

Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I’m still in Your hands
This is my confidence
You’ve never failed me ye
t…

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AND THEY PRAISED GOD!

This is a passage of hope, restoration, with transformed lives.  We cannot come to Jesus and remain as we were.  We cannot lay all our problems and concerns at his feet in faith, feeling the same as when we carried the load.  When we come to Jesus, miraculous nothing, absolutely nothing looks the same.  The sky is a different color.  We actually look up to notice there is a sky!  Our surroundings that seem like they were closing in on us suddenly open up to miles and miles of peaceful green pastures.  We have been given His touch of life everlasting and it makes us feel good from the inside out and outside in. 

We are free to walk, run, go, tell and smile again while living life a free person all because of Jesus!  In the background of my mind when I read this short passage of miraculous God in flesh, Jesus, I rejoice and sing, giving Him praise again and again!

I AM FREE, The Newboys

Through You the blind will see
Through You the mute will sing
Through You the dead will rise
Through You all hearts will praise
Through You the darkness flees
Through You my heart sings

I am free
I am free
Let me hear you

And I am free to run (I am free to run)
And I am free to dance (I am free to dance)
And I am free to live for You (I am free to live for You)
I am free (I am free)
Yes I am free (yes, I am free)
Come on

And I am free to run (I am free to run)
I am free to dance (I am free to dance)
I am free to live for you (I am free to live for you)
I am free (I am free)
I am free (I am free)

Through You the kingdom comes
Through You the battle’s won
Through You I’m not afraid
Through You The price is paid
Through You there’s victory
Because of You my soul sings
I am free
Do you believe in freedom?
Come on

And I am free to run (I am free to run)
And I am free to dance (I am free to dance)
And I am free to live for You (I am free to live for You)
I am free (I am free)
Yes I am free (I am free)

Matthew—God’s Law Fulfilled

Matthew 15:29-31, NLT

Jesus Heals Many People

Jesus returned to the Sea of Galilee and climbed a hill and sat down. 30 A vast crowd brought to him people who were lame, blind, crippled, those who couldn’t speak, and many others. They laid them before Jesus, and he healed them all. 31 The crowd was amazed! Those who hadn’t been able to speak were talking, the crippled were made well, the lame were walking, and the blind could see again! And they praised the God of Israel.  (Emphasis mine.)

PAUSE TO PRAY AND PRAISE!

Am I free, truly free?

Do I feel free to run, dance and truly live for Jesus?

Do I really believe that what I believe about God really real?

Do my actions and behaviors daily show what I believe to be true?

Abba, Father in Heaven,

I do believe!  I am free!  Even though the enemy is constantly trying to trap me with his net to drag me off, I run to be free with You!  I’m free to dance with my feet or in my mind as the enemy loses each time to You in me.  That is the secret, right Lord?  You in me and me in You.  All that I am and all that I have belongs to You.  I love you and realize the depth of your love for me.  That alone sets me free to run, dance and live for you!

In Jesus Name, Amen

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TORMENTED NO MORE!

We cannot begin to imagine the pain and suffering of one who is tormented day and night by demons of darkness.  But this mom in our passage today does!  She will do anything to get help for her daughter.  She isn’t a Jew, but that doesn’t stop her from having faith in the One and Only who she fully believes can save her daughter.  Do we have and hold onto that kind of faith? 

The only goal of these kinds of demons is to destroy precious souls created by God.  This mom knows that what is torturing her daughter is not from God!  We can come close to understanding when we see our own loved one fall into deep holes of darkness that are hard to climb up and out.  We care and are very concerned about those who are in deep depressions, those who struggle with anxieties of all kinds that are life debilitating. We pray for them but sometimes we also judge them with harmful advice such as, “If only you would” …but that does not make it better, only bitter.  This kind of caring sends the tormented deeper still.

Be quiet, go to God and ask Him for His healing.  If God leads them to seek the help of a qualified doctor, then support them by standing by them with love, mercy and grace.  Remind them that are not in this alone.  Most of all, bring their name to the Father daily for healing and restoration.  Don’t give up.  God knows what each person needs.  Rely and trust on Him.  In times of frustration, agony, and helplessness, we must be like the desperate mom who KNEW Jesus could heal her daughter.  This precious mom was not beneath begging Jesus to heal her daughter. 

Finally, it was mom’s great faith in Jesus that healed her daughter.  Imagine going home to her healed daughter who is no longer tormented by the demons of darkness!  Yes, God moves on great faith such as this! 

Matthew—The Law Fulfilled

Matthew 15:21-28, NLT

The Faith of a Gentile Woman

21 Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.”

23 But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.”

24 Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.”

25 But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!”

26 Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

27 She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.”

28 “Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed.

PAUSE TO PRAY (Prayer: conversation of talking AND listening to God)

How great is our faith?

What do we bring to God expecting to fully receive an answer?

Do we hold back some issues that we think God shouldn’t be bothered with or cannot handle?

Are we too ashamed to bring some troubles to God?

How great is our faith? 

Do we really believe that what we say we believe to be really real?  (Take time to answer this one.  I am.)

We sing “How Great is our God” but do we really believe it and live it out loud in our behavior?  Do we often think first of how great are our problems? 

Do we wallow and stew before taking all to God?  (And leaving it all with Him?)

Remember…

Jesus went to cross to pay for all sin for all God’s created.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3;16). Jesus came first to God’s chosen, the Jews but Jesus is now for all who believe on Him and trust in His power, love, mercy and grace for each soul. 

ALL.  Paul solidifies this inclusiveness as he writes, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Galatians 3:28

Abba, Father,

We come to you with extreme gratitude for all you have done to set us free from sin.  You have set many free from the demons who dance around our minds seeking to take control so they can bring destruction to our being that you created.  You fight for our hearts, minds and souls and for that I am so grateful for his love that is unconditional and relentless.  Thank you for saving the woman’s daughter because of her great faith.  This example of great faith in You is good for us to ponder.  Thank you for building our faith through life’s circumstances as we turn all to you in your Name for your glory.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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TRADITION!

Are you humming the “tradition” song from Fiddler on the Roof?  There are many traditional behaviors of this world, both inside and outside the church, that are the result of one person being offended by another so “laws” are made up to make sure they are not offended again.  Man-made laws are created that become traditions to protect power and positions held by certain men who do not want to lose what they have gained.  County lines, for instance, were drawn up many years ago for the protection of the political men in charge at the time.  Go back in history of our own country and you will find the “backstories” of how state and county lines were decided and changed over the years.  Some will say it has to do with population and for the most part that would be true, but we have to consider who has the final vote and that would be the powerful who we put into office to govern over us.

The church has many traditions that have little to nothing to do with God’s Word with His Commandments (not suggestions) to love Him and each other, honor your parents, etc.  Many traditions are built and sustained as “laws” for certain churches that must not be broken or there will be punishment in the way of broken relationships.  Too harsh, you say?  My husband was pastor of a church full of traditions.  Being the new people to the area and to that particular church, we had to be schooled in those traditions by trial and error.  We heard often, “Well, everybody knows that.” One such tradition was that a large cross stored in the basement was to be put on display with a purple sash draped on it 3-4 weeks before Easter.  It was to remain there after Easter for effect for a few more weeks.  No one told us.  “Everybody knows that…”

Church lady, who sat in the back in her pew with her family only, was seething with anger before, during and after Easter that year.  We couldn’t figure out why.  She wouldn’t make eye contact with us much less talk with us.  She would pass out programs at the door, but not to my family.  I prayed about what to do.  And God gave me something that I knew would please her to give to her as an offering of peace.  She finally relaxed her tense shoulders and formed a smile.  The relationship took months of loving work to rebuild.  Finally, her heart softened and peace came.  It was months later that we found out at a board meeting what we did wrong.  We hadn’t brought the cross up from the basement.  Tradition.

Jesus teaches His followers (and we who follow today) about our heart conditions.  Man-made laws and addendums to God’s Law established to please mankind are not what He desires.  God looks at our hearts, knowing that what is in our hearts will spill out into our behaviors.  The Pharisees, couldn’t “see” that they were working harder to keep traditions intact to please each other and gain power and position over people versus keeping their hearts pure to please God.  They were also seething with anger because Jesus did not follow traditions of ceremonial hand washing.  Jesus, Son of God, already pure and perfect.  But they did not accept Him.

Jesus quotes Isaiah as He explains the original intent of God’s Law,

“These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship is a farce,
    for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’”

Yikes!  The traditional wooden cross kept in the basement and brought out during the season of Easter did not save souls.  Only Jesus saves souls for eternity.  Jesus—the most important relationship we will ever have.  All other pure and great relationships begin with Him.  I’m reminded of the contemporary song, “I Don’t Want to Leave a Legacy—Only Jesus” …

PAUSE TO PRAY

What traditions are we holding onto as “law”? 

Who is our Savior of our souls and Lord of our lives?

What IS the condition of my heart?  What is my behavior showing? 

Lord, what do you want from me today? 

Shine your light on my heart and my behavior.

Lord, fill my heart with all of you and wash away all that is not of you. 

In Jesus Name, Amen.

Matthew—The Law Fulfilled

Matthew 15:1-20, NLT

Jesus Teaches about Inner Purity

Some Pharisees and teachers of religious law now arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They asked him, “Why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition? For they ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat.”

Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? For instance, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you say they don’t need to honor their parents. And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,

‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship is a farce,
    for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’”

10 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “Listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 11 It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.”

12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?”

13 Jesus replied, “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted, 14 so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.”

15 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Explain to us the parable that says people aren’t defiled by what they eat.”

16 “Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. 17 “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. 18 But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20 These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.”

Abba, Father in Heaven,

Hallowed is Your Name.  May Your Kingdom come, may YOUR will be done in every detail of our lives here on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day your wisdom to discern what You want and what is mere tradition.  Help us to follow you well as your servants who long for intimate relationship with you.  May all other relationships be built based on our relationship with you first.  And forgive us when we slip into manmade traditions within your church as habit.  Help us to evaluate all that we do and get rid of all that isn’t you.  Lead us not into temptations but deliver us from evil and evil’s schemes to get us to worship traditions instead of you.  I know you will help us for with you nothing is impossible!  To you be all glory, honor and praise for all that is good.

In Jesus Name, Amen

And I’m singing…

Purify My Heart by Brian Doerksen

Purify my heart
Let me be as gold and precious silver
Purify my heart
Let me be as gold, pure gold

Refiner’s fire,
My heart’s one desire
Is to be holy
Set apart for You, Lord
I choose to be holy
Set apart for You, my Master
Ready to do Your will

Purify my heart
Cleanse me from within
And make me holy
Purify my heart
Cleanse me from my sin, deep within…

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WHEN THE DEVIL STIRS THE POT…

Immediately after powerful, miraculous times of God showing his glory through ministry in and through us, the devil comes in with his limited power to stir the pot.  It happens to me and it happens to you.  Satan plants seeds of doubt in our minds, convincing us what happened didn’t really happen.  Satan’s desires our thoughts to stay human, weak and fallible.  Satan wants us to “explain” God’s power and glorious work as coincidences or freaks of nature. If all that doesn’t work, evil and his demons plant ideas of self into the mix, causing us to take credit for all that just happened.  Yikes!

Oh, Friends, avoid these thoughts at all costs through prayers for help from the Creator of the seas.  Crashing waves of fear, anger, doubt, unrest, mistrust with tons of anxiety roll in like a storm causing sleepless nights of worry when we succumb to Satan’s limited tricks and manipulating lies.  Feeling helpless and hopeless is exactly where the evil one wants us to be.  Don’t fall for it, instead—walk on water with the Master of the Sea!

Remember…

The disciples just helped Jesus feed over 5000 men and their families on the mountainside in a remote area.  Every one of the twelve carried the weight of their own basket of leftovers, (good call, Jesus!) after feeding the crowd with only a few loaves of bread and a few fish.  Jesus, still grieving the death of John the Baptist, showed compassion on the crowd that day while teaching His Twelve and important life lesson.  Trust God.  Do what God wants.  God provides where He guides.

IMMEDIATELY after this miraculous ministry of compassion, Jesus sent the disciples back across the lake so He can finally slip away to pray to the Father who sent Him.  I can only imagine the devil stirring the pot of lake waters into a surprising storm that challenged the pro fishermen’s abilities.  The waves caused doubts and fear as they fought to keep their boat from being overturned or destroyed.  But there is and always will be One who is more powerful and glorious and always wins over evil!

Jesus walks on water to their rescue.  He invites Peter, who stills acts before he thinks, to walk with Him.  Peter, bold enough to at least get out of the boat, demonstrates faith over fear, but then turns his eyes back to what made him afraid and begins to sink.  Jesus pulls him up from the tossing sea and climbs into the boat with His Twelve.  I imagine Jesus and Peter laughing as Peter is grabbing on to the side of the tossing boat, sputtering to gain composure, while spitting out lake water.  Peace on the sea is the immediate result.  “Why, did you doubt Me?”, says the Son of God, Jesus, the One and Only who has all power to rescue and save us for eternity.

Why, then do we doubt?  Pause to pray.

Matthew—The Law Fulfilled

Matthew 14:22-36, NLT

Jesus Walks on Water

22 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. 23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.

24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. 25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

34 After they had crossed the lake, they landed at Gennesaret. 35 When the people recognized Jesus, the news of his arrival spread quickly throughout the whole area, and soon people were bringing all their sick to be healed. 36 They begged him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of his robe, and all who touched him were healed.

Abba, Father in Heaven,

You have proved to me over and over again the power and authority You have over all.  You are in all.  You are all we need!  You come to our rescue when the evil one stirs the pot of our lives with attacks of fear, doubt and anxiety.  You are God and we definitely are not.  You are God and Satan is not and never will be.  Jesus, you are our victory forever!  Yes, all battles are fought with You as the Victor over our souls!  You walk on stormy seas of restlessness that were meant by evil to bring us down!  You are King of kings and Lord of lords!  I will praise you along as I have breath on earth and then forevermore with you!  I will praise you in the morning, noon and night.  You are forever my Savior and my Lord.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  Continue to steady my lifeboat as the storms come and go.  All my life is in You.  I really believe in what you say and do is really real!

In Jesus Name, Amen

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MOURNING IN MINISTRY

There are days when you mourn in ministry and through ministry.  There is no greater example of this as we read what Matthew has to say about Jesus when he heard about the news of John the Baptist, the one who prepared the way for Jesus and the one who was a family member.  Jesus, human and God in the flesh, tried to go away to a remote place to mourn but the crowds “heard where he was headed” and followed Him there. 

True compassion knows no bounds.  Seeing their needs, his own grief over John was displayed in loving ministry to heal the sick.  Jesus knows what we need when we mourn and sends us right back into ministry, too.  Serving others while helping them find and follow Jesus is a great way to handle our own losses in life.  What we gain in losing is more spiritual knowledge as we strive to be more and more like Him.

Do we dwell in our mourning or continue in ministry?  That is the mark of a true believer in Jesus who seeks to be more and more like Him and less like our selfish selves who seek pity and pats on the back for attention in our mourning. 

Jesus went right back to work, doing what God had asked Him to do.  Thank you, Jesus.

Matthew—The Law Fulfilled

Matthew 14:1-21, NLT

The Death of John the Baptist

14 When Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, heard about Jesus, he said to his advisers, “This must be John the Baptist raised from the dead! That is why he can do such miracles.”

For Herod had arrested and imprisoned John as a favor to his wife Herodias (the former wife of Herod’s brother Philip). John had been telling Herod, “It is against God’s law for you to marry her.” Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of a riot, because all the people believed John was a prophet.

But at a birthday party for Herod, Herodias’s daughter performed a dance that greatly pleased him, so he promised with a vow to give her anything she wanted. At her mother’s urging, the girl said, “I want the head of John the Baptist on a tray!” Then the king regretted what he had said; but because of the vow he had made in front of his guests, he issued the necessary orders. 10 So John was beheaded in the prison, 11 and his head was brought on a tray and given to the girl, who took it to her mother. 12 Later, John’s disciples came for his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus what had happened.

Jesus Feeds Five Thousand

13 As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. 14 Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

15 That evening the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”

16 But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.”

17 “But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” they answered.

18 “Bring them here,” he said. 19 Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. 20 They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. 21 About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children!

Abba, Father in Heaven,

Hallowed be your Name.  May Your Kingdom come and reign in us and all around us.  May Your Will be done in everyday life, in all the details of life on earth as it is in heaven.  Take charge of my life.  Transform me.  Change my mind to think more like you so I will behave more like you.  Yes, give us this day words that tell us what you want from us for today.  And forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.  Lead us not into temptations but deliver us from the evil one who seeks to destroy who we are and who we follow.  For you have all power.  To you be all glory, honor and praise forevermore!

In Jesus Name, Amen

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DO WE GET IT? 

As Randy and I age, it is becoming somewhat irritating and comical at the same time as we try to communicate with each other with less than perfect hearing.  If you don’t laugh at yourself, aging will be a “bear” to navigate.  There is now a lot of , “I thought you said…”statements and actions that lead to miscommunication.  I’m sure you can relate.  Sometimes age has nothing to do with it. Right?

If we do not love unconditionally, marriage communication will become much harder.  If we do not stop to really listen to understand and not presume or assume what we think we heard, life will be much harder to live each day.  So, we have come to the agreement that we will stop to listen, look into each other’s eyes while seeking to truly understand the words trying to be communicated.  God’s Love, which began our relationship more than fifty years ago, will always be behind our eyes of compassion with a desire to hear not only with our less than perfect ears but with our hearts. 

SPEAKING OF LOVE…

People who know God know love, says John the beloved disciple of Jesus. (1 John 4:7-8). People who do not know God do not know love or how to express in ways that are understood and cherished.  Yes, it is cherishing and endearing to be lovingly understood!  The Kingdom of Heaven, teaches Jesus, does not have a place for those who do not know God.  Jesus has been explaining what Heaven is along with what God will accept as entrance to Life forever with Him.  He has also explained who God is in previous parables, using illustrations that related to the people really listening to learn.  His words are not that hard to figure out.  The final “net” will be thrown at judgement.  All the “fish” will be gathered by His angels.  Sorting will take place.  The wicked will die.  Those who believe, love and follow Jesus to the throne of God in a growing relationship with Him are saved in the sorting and live forever with Him.  Imagine being loved now and for eternity!

“Do you understand all these things?” This was asked of Jesus then and is asked of us now.  Do we really understand and live out loud what we believe?  Do you get it? Do I? Can we answer, without pause, “YES, we do.”?

Matthew—The Law Fulfilled

Matthew 13:47-51, NLT

Parable of the Fishing Net

47 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that was thrown into the water and caught fish of every kind. 48 When the net was full, they dragged it up onto the shore, sat down, and sorted the good fish into crates, but threw the bad ones away. 49 That is the way it will be at the end of the world. The angels will come and separate the wicked people from the righteous, 50 throwing the wicked into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 51 Do you understand all these things?”

“Yes,” they said, “we do.”

LET THESE TRUTHS DWELL AND SIMMER WITHIN US…

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16, NIV

Paul says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). He says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

What salvation requires us to believe is, instead of working for this salvation, that he has done what needs to be done. We receive it. “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).

Do we really believe what we say we believe about God really real?                Pause to pray.

Abba, Father in Heaven,

Thank you for stopping us to consider the two choices.  These words are a matter of life and death for each one of us.  For me.  Do I really believe?  Do I understand what is at stake here?  Do I get it?  YES, I do.  I love you with all my heart, mind and soul.  I believe in the salvation you have given to me.  This believing state of mind desires even more of you each day I live.  I want to understand more and more, so I come to you with an open heart and mind with a soul that needs to be filled with all of you.  Wash away all that offends you that is worldly and unrighteous.  Transform me to be all you intended for to be. 

By your power working in me, in Jesus Name, Amen.  I believe.

There are only two choices.  Choose wisely.  Choose life.

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